Ayvaz Dede: A legendary figure who spread Islam in Bosnia - TAHA KILINÇ

Ayvaz Dede: A legendary figure who spread Islam in Bosnia

Bosnia and Herzegovina was stage to vivid scenes again this year on the occasion of the 512th “Aywaz-Dedo Festivities.” Horseback troops that set off from all corners of the country gathered in Prusac, Donji Vakuf, located nearby Travnik, and commemorated Aywaz-Dedo, a figure who introduced Islam to Bosnian lands. The joyous ceremony, lively with the green flags carried by the leaders adorned in traditional garments, topped with a red fez, and the janissary band was concluded with the noon prayer observed by thousands. 

According to common belief, Aywaz-Dedo, an ascetic from Akhisar, in Turkey’s southwestern Manisa province, arrived in the Balkans in 1463, during Ottoman Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror’s Bosnia expedition, and settled in the land that is presently known as Bosnia. The pure character of Aywaz-Dedo, who did not waste any time to establish a dervish lodge in Prusac, played a major role in the area’s Islamization, making him a highly respected figure in the eyes of the public. However, the event that made Aywaz-Dedo a “legend” is his role in saving Prusac from draught during a time of famine. There is a water source on Mount Šuljaga, but there is a gigantic rock mass preventing the water from flowing to Prusac. This is a 74-meter tall and 30-meter-wide rock and seems impossible to be broken by manpower to allow the water to run through. Aywaz-Dedo secludes himself and starts praying for 40 days and 40 nights. On the morning of the last day, he falls asleep after reciting the Holy Qur’an, and sees a dream. In his dream, he sees two white rams causing a great racket to hit their horns. When he opens his eyes, the rock is split in half, and water has started to gush towards Prusac through a gap that is 3-4 meters wide. 

Aywaz-Dedo becomes so renowned that his influence and fame quickly spread beyond Donji Vakuf, Travnik, and in fact, reach outside Bosnian borders, all the way to the Ottoman capital. Prusac is renamed as “Akhisar,” and given a higher status as a qadi center. 

Countless Bosnians became Muslim, both during Aywaz-Dedo's own lifetime and in the following centuries in which this event continued to be the subject of multiple legends. The Aywaz-Dedo commemoration activities that continue to be organized at the end of June every year since the Ottoman centuries, seem to be “self-evident” for Bosnian Muslims now since the start of the last century. Participation in the festivities being an official “crime” in communist Yugoslavia shows that administrators are evaluating the matter from the point of “Muslim presence in the country.” Numerous Muslims ended up in court because of the “Aywaz-Dedo commemoration ban,” which was implemented strictly until the 1990s. 

Despite the vast variety of tone differences in the colors of the Islamic lifestyle, Aywaz-Dedo is a strong symbol that keeps Bosnians together today and regularly reminds them of their religious-national identity. As the horseman dressed in the traditional outfits, with their red fez and vests-shalwar, make an appearance on the city streets, a mix of emotions will continue to remain strong in Bosnians' hearts. In this respect, Aywaz-Dedo is almost like a pleasant welcoming from Akhisar to the Balkans from centuries ago. 

There is another matter that the Aywaz-Dedo festivities remind: 

Tme and again, comments about the increasing spread of Salafism in the Muslim world are striking. In fact, according to certain authors, Salafis took over (or will take over) the majority. Yet, a close look at events shows that Salafi ideas, which are against traditions and the public’s beliefs, lack the ability to influence the majority of communities or in a widespread manner. Shiism is more effective in terms of spreading deeper because rather than conflicting with traditions and public beliefs, it embraces and strengthens these. Add to it the emotional discourses developed on “love of Ahl al-Bayt" (people of the house), and the spread of an affinity towards Shiism stands as a fact. 

In brief, along with the dozens of stories and legends surrounding Aywaz-Dedo, he continues to be one of the strongest bridges between Bosnia (in fact all of the Balkans) and Ottoman history. A strong and majestic bridge that has proven itself through many storms and disasters for more than five centuries. 


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